Who is to blame for this awful US election?

Yesterday

Fox News? The four horsemen of the Republican apocalypse? The FBI? Whatever the outcome, historians will judge harshly those who did not stop Trump when they could

The US election might not aim tomorrow. Anyone who lived through the photo-finish of 2000, when it took until mid-December for a win to be declared and only then by a ruling of the supreme court will know that a presidential competition does not always make a chairwoman, at the least not right away. But one thing will certainly be over and that is the dizzying, sometimes nauseating, 18 -month-long saga that has been the 2016 campaign.

It is standard to describe a US presidential tournament as bitternes and divisive. In 2012, the Protector front-page tale branded the combat of Barack Obama v Mitt Romney one of the most closely opposed and polarised in recent history. Appearing back, that race looks like a veritable doctrine seminar, exemplary in its civility and decorum, compared with this one.

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Americas search for Obamas successor has been a horror present of lies, bully and the bigotry. Photograph: Robyn Beck/ AFP/ Getty Images

In a crowded field, the 2016 campaign stands out as remarkably awful. Yes, it has been riveting, whether followed from a distance or covered up close. Those who say it has unfolded like a Netflix drama in real day are not exaggerating. Except no drama would have dared offer this cast of characters a real-estate tycoon with a crush on a Russian despot, an ex-congressman investigated for sexting an underage daughter, a former Miss Universe humbled as Miss Piggy or the last-minute reversals of luck. Campaign 2016 has built House of Cards seem tame.

But that cannot disguise the truth: the USs search for Obamas successor has been a horror indicate, uncovering and dredging up a stew of racism, misogyny and casual violence bubbling below the surface of American life. Eight in 10 US voters say the campaign has left them feeling disgusted, according to a CBS/ New York Times poll last week. Not dissatisfied. Disgusted . The platonic ideal of an election is a sober discussion of the questions that will confront the US over the next decade. The reality has been a marathon of insult, menace and lies.

The blame for this belongs to one human. Donald Trump has opposed a presidential campaign like no other. He has mocked opponents for their appears, belittled females, disparaged war heroes, damned ethnic and other minorities in crude, bigoted language, jeered at disabled people, beaten his chest with bellicose promises of state-sponsored violence that would trample on the US constitution and trigger a third world war, and told dozens and dozens of lies every day. While his foe has offered detailed and substantive policy prescriptions, those have scarcely got a mention: Trumps knack for hogging media attention, usually by saying or tweeting something jaw-droppingly outrageous, has left no room. In the four-and-a-half hours of formal presidential debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton, climate change was discussed for not one minute.

But Trump does not bear the blame alone. Also shamed by the 2016 campaign are those institutions and individuals who failed to stand up to him. Some understood the danger he represented, considering in him a would-be despot I alone can fix this! whose contempt for basic democratic norms, from the importance of a free press to the need to respect the outcome of a democratic election, indicated a lurch towards fascism. That small handful will be remembered with appreciation. But, whatever the outcome today, historians of the American republic will judge harshly those who did not stop Trump when they could. It will damn those who pandered, pampered and enabled him to reach this moment: where polls still depict him with a track, albeit narrow, to the White House.

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Jeb Bush was among the Republican competitors who had no idea how to deal with Trump. Photograph: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images

First in this roll-call of disgrace is the Republican party. Among those hanging their heads should be the 16 competitor an applicant who allowed themselves to be steamrollered by a reality Tv host and serially bankrupted businessman. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and the others had no idea how to deal with Trump. They collectively made a strategic fault by failing to realise their primary task was to take him out. Instead, they opposed one another, each hoping to emerge as the sole, anti-Trump nominee around whom Republicans would unite. That proved a delusion.

As Trumps poll lead increased in late 2015 and early 2016, his contenders grew ever more frightened of taking a shot at him, anxious that they might alienate his supporters or, worse, that he might train his flame back on them. So while, say, Chris Christie mocked Rubio on a Tv debate stage in New Hampshire in February, Trump could literally step back and watch merely to emerge as the win in that states Republican primary a few days later.

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Trump rival and New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Photograph: Mel Evans/ AP

Perhaps the Republican cannot be blamed for the weakness of the field that fought Trump for their partys nomination. Perhaps no traditional legislator no senator or governor could take on Trump when the Republican grassroots, so furious at the political establishment, were hungering for an foreigner.( Although, of course, this anti-establishment ardor, this disgust of all things Washington, was itself stoked for years by Republicans and their allies on Fox News and in the rest of the conservative political-media-entertainment complex. In losing their party to Trump, the Republican were burned by a fire they themselves had started .)

But what shames them is their conduct afterwards. Even as Trump made clear what kind of man he is calling Mexicans rapists, suggesting African-Americans are too lazy to run, that Jews watch everything through the lens of money, calling females puppies and animals, threatening violence against protesters, endorsing torment and the murder of the families of suspected terrorists, calling for a foreign power( Russia) to hack into emails belonging to his political competitor, arguing that women who have abortions should face some sort of punishment, and being uncovered as a proud perpetrator of sexual assault, a man whose approach to girls is to grab them by the pussy even after all this and so much more, most senior Republicans of note stood by him.

To be sure, they denounced him occasionally, when the extremity of their standard bearers behaviour left them no alternative. Paul Ryan, who serves as speaker of the House of Representatives, rightly called it the textbook definition of a racist commentary when Trump used to say Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not be impartial in handling the lawsuit against the so-called Trump University because Curiel was Mexican. In fact, the judge was a US citizen, born in Indiana. Ryan cold-shouldered Trump again, after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted of his attacks on girls. But he never refuted him fully. Ryan never said Trump was unfit to be president of the United States and that he would not vote for him.

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Senator John McCain initially endorsed Trump. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/ AP

The same was nearly true of Senator John McCain, tortured for five and a half years in a Hanoi cell and yet mocked as not a hero by Trump( who said he preferred those who were not captured ). McCain swallowed that, along with Trumps promise to ban Muslims and to deport 11 million undocumented migrants merely receding his endorsement last month, after the notorious tape.

Until then, McCain, like most of his fellow Republicans, clung to the fiction that Trump would transform himself into a new being: sober, presidential and, above all, capable of being tamed by the Republican establishment even though there was not a shred of evidence, bar a very occasional willingness on the candidates proportion to read prepared lines from a teleprompter, to subsistence that fantasy.

That puts them on a moral aircraft only slightly above that occupied by Trumps trio of enablers: Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. Those three horsemen of the Republican apocalypse conspired in the lie that a snake-oil salesman was fit to be president and destroyed what remained of their reputations in the process. As Hillary Clinton pointed out, Giuliani used to prosecute tax-dodgers. In this campaign, he praised Trumps failure to pay income tax for at least two decades as proof of his genius.

And that is to omitted the fourth horseman: Mike Pence, the defender of family values who has served as the running mate of a thrice-married, serially adulterous, self-confessed grabber of women. When the 2005 grab them videotape emerged, Pence went into seclusion. Some thought he might emerge to announce he was discontinuing the Republican ticket. He did no such thing. Instead, he investigated his conscience, detected it pristine and continued to act as a character witness to a man who cheats his taxes, cheats on his spouses and lies every time he opens his mouth.

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Donald Trump and Mike Pence campaign together In Wisconsin. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/ Getty Images

Its easy to attack the spineless leaders of the Republican party. Easy but incomplete. Its a rule of political combat that no one ever, ever, attacks the voters a rule Clinton unwisely violated when she deployed an odd metaphor to describe half of Trumps supporters as a basket of deplorables. But that regulation only applies to candidates for office. Any truthful assessment of a campaign has at least to include those doing the voting.

Some blame surely attaches to the Americans who let Trump keep up the bully and the bigotry and voted for him anyway. There is no escaping the fact that north of 40% of the US electorate have been prepared to vote for Trump despite everything that he has said and done. One poll received 22% of Trumps own advocates believed he would start a nuclear war. They thought that, but were prepared to vote for him anyway. None of them will be able to say: We didnt know.

Notable among that group are Christian evangelical voters, people who used to say that character mattered, that the personal conduct of a candidate was crucial. Five years ago, merely 30% of white evangelicals believed that a person guilty of immoral personal behaviour could behave ethically in a public role. Now that figure stands at 72%, a remarkably rapid change. It means people of supposedly deep moral convictions have been prepared to junk those faiths only to accommodate Trump.

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The Christian referendum: a Republican presidential rally in Mobile Alabama. Photo: Julie Dermansky/ Corbis via Getty Images

Still, they will have had their reasons including, for many millions, an all-consuming loathing of Hillary Clinton, a hatred so deep it blocks out, or at least outweighs, Trumps copious flaws. Analysts have not been sure how to explain the other motives. Some have been compassionate and highlighted the role of economic disadvantage among Trump supporters, those left behind by globalisation. Others have suggested that Trumpism is a howling of often racist, misogynistic rage from angry white humen, furious that their once-privileged place in American life has been supplanted. The latter camp has taken to sharing scenes or reports of overt racism and sexism by Trump advocates with the sarcastic caption: economic nervousnes.

This debate has been exhaustively aired in parts of the American press, but, overall, the media and especially TV shares some responsibility for the dire nation of the 2016 campaign. Its true that the most respectable newspapers and reporters kept tabs on Trumps prodigious lie: one correspondent tweeted out a daily tally, often stretching into the dozens. Others maintained diligent fact-checking services.

But the big picture was indulgence on an epic scale. For months, Trump had unique and unprecedented access to the airwaves of cable TV. Rather than wait to be booked for a set-piece interview, he would simply call up Fox or MSNBC and set himself on the air. He knew he was ratings gold; he knew the networks would not be able to say no. He had a similarly instinctive, reptilian understanding of the medias addiction to outrage: his nocturnal tweeting habit spread offence and insult far and wide but it ensured he remained at the centre of public attention for over a year. According to the media analyst Jack Shafer, the only subject ever to have enjoyed a comparable full-spectrum predominance is 9/11.

Yet that quantitative imbalance was not the only distortion. The media clung to its notion that balance necessitated equivalence, so that if Trump wallowed in dishonesty, involving constant fact-checking, then Clinton had to be treated as equally dishonest. Witness the morning Tv anchor Matt Lauer, widely pilloried for a programme in which he let Trump say anything, much of it false, but played inquisitor-general with Clinton, especially over her emails.( Still, the enduring face of media indulgence of Trump lies in the fact that of late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon, playfully ruffling the hair of the real estate tycoon treating him as merely another lovable rogue .)

The moment when TV host Jimmy Fallon ruffled Trumps hair epitomised the medias indulgence of him.

Nowhere was this mindset more misleading than in the never-ending discussion of those emails, especially in the campaigns final stretch. Which brings us to the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, in particular, its director, James Comey. His decision to announce 10 days before election day that he was, in effect, reopening the FBI probe into the email affair handed the last week of the campaign to Trump. It put Clinton on the defensive, halted her momentum and stopped the bleeding in Team Trump. Many analysts believe that, by bringing Republican voters back home to the party, it will also prevent Democrats retaking the senate.

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FBI director James Comey takes his place in the hall of shame. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/ AP

And all that on what turned out to be an wholly false premise. On Sunday, Comey had to admit that the cache of supposedly new emails was, in fact , nothing of the kind and that there were no grounds to alter his July view that Clinton should face no farther action. But by then the damage had been done. Whether through partisan bias or sheer incompetence, we do not yet fully know.

So Comey takes his place in the vestibule of shame of the 2016 campaign, shuffling into the group photo alongside Julian Assange, who might as well have handed over his WikiLeaks operation to the Trump campaign. Assange kept up a drip feed of leaked emails from the Clinton team, many of them embarrassing , none devastating while conspicuously leaking nothing that might injury the Republican nominee. WikiLeaks never created Trumps tax returns or the outtakes from The Apprentice said to contain yet more evidence that Trump is a bigot and sex predator. It targeted Clinton alone.

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Julian Assanges WikiLeaks operation kept up a drip feed of leaked emails from the Clinton team, while leaking nothing that might damage Trump. Photo: Ken McKay/ ITV/ Rex/ Shutterstock

And there should be room in that photo for Vladimir Putin, whose intelligence agencies are near-universally believed to be behind the wholesale hacking of the Democratic party, and whose goal appears to have been either the process of establishing Trump or, failing that, the sowing of disarray and chaos in the US electoral system.( Some believe Putin is saving his greatest assault till last, dreading he will hack the electronic voting system being implemented in several key US nations, thereby casting doubt on the validity of the result .)

And who would stand on the other side? Who should win a medal for their service in this bloody campaign? Michelle Obama will be remembered for devoting two of the best speeches of recent times, one at the Democratic convention, the other lambasting Trump for his misogyny. The old media behemoths of the New York Times and Washington Post deserve great praise for keeping the spotlight on Trump, the former by uncovering his non-payment of taxation, the latter for the work of David Fahrenthold, who got the scoop on the grab them videotape and who kept excavating at Trumps exaggerated claims of charitable giving. The comedians of Saturday Night Live deserve a mention, too, especially for Alec Baldwins performance, which captured the bullying, meandering emptiness of Trump. Daily Show alumni John Oliver and Samantha Bee also did their bit and did it well.

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The Daily Shows Samantha Bee. Photo: YouTube

Those who can hold their heads highest, however, are the conservatives who set country before party. The Bush family could have gone farther by, say, officially backing Clinton but their refusal to endorse Trump does something to redeem the clans reputation. Newspapers such as the Arizona Republic or the Dallas Morning News broke with their pasts, and their readers, to endorse a Democrat rather than back someone they watched as unfit. The backlash was severe: staff at the Arizona paper received death threats. Individuals including senators Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse and former Bush speechwriter David Frum made a similar choice.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

No, Mr Trump, we’re not the same as the neo-Nazis | Emily Gorcenski

2 days ago

In Charlottesville I faced off with men bearing torches and swastikas hollering Jews will not replace us. Yet the president guess both sides are to blame

The president of the United States called a mob of people marching with torches and chanting Nazi mottoes very fine people. Fine people dont chant Nazi slogans. Fine people dont surround and attack college student. And fine people dont stand with those who do.

I was there that night in Charlottesville. I can say with certainty that the only fine people I ensure were the young students who stood outnumbered and ready to defend their campus and their beliefs against an onslaught of demagoguery.

I know some of those students. They were ready to die for what they believed in. I was prepared to die, too. A man wearing a swastika pin shouted transphobic and racist vitriol at me, inches from my face.

The only fine people that night were those sprayed with mace and doused with lighter fluid from the torches that they were beaten with, afraid of being burned alive. Fine people dont wear swastikas. Yet President Trump blamed both sides, despite the fact that merely one side was run down by a terrorist.

I was there when the attack happened. Despite the president deeming me a transgender girl unfit for military service, I operated toward the attacker with a weapon. I was ready to engage him if he tried to hurt more people.

I reached out to groups attending this event from the left, right and center to advise nonviolence. Meanwhile, the unite the right marchers told things like well fucking kill them if we have to on camera.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Donald Trump Is The Florida Man Candidate

2 days ago

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — There are a lot of reasons why Donald Trump ought to be able to victory in Tuesday’s Florida primary, where the GOP presidential front-runner enjoys a commanding lead of more than 20 phases in the polls.

But there’s a very crucial one that shouldn’t be overlooked: Trump is Florida Man … well, the candidate for that type of voter, at the least.

Florida Man, if you weren’t already aware, is a descriptor and an avatar of the Sunshine State’s most outlandish residents. These include the Florida Man who insisted the ghost of WWE legend Macho Man Randy Savage haunted a local wrestling match; the one who subdued and then vowed to eat the shark that bit him; the guy who showed up hammered to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving banquet in his honor and the burglar who stashed a chainsaw in his pants — all chronicled in the @_FloridaMan Twitter account. This resonates, in part, because it exemplifies a very specific and weirdcare-free ethos that is unique to Florida. The state is home to an often bizarre mishmash of nouveau riche fanfare, sunburnt Southern swagger and a kind of meth-addled YOLO philosophy.

“Florida’s a weird nation, it’s very divide, ” told Sebastian Sultzer a student originally from Deerfield Beach in Palm Beach County. “Miami is very different from North Florida.”

Put another way, Florida Man is the Joe Six Pack of people who drives Cadillacs at 110 mph while naked.

Trump, in so far as we know, has never done any of these things, but consider his career in this context and you can begin to hear echoes of this character. Just switch his name for Florida Man and you’ll assure what we mean:

Florida Man purchases a private airplane and enjoys watching Jean Claude Van Damme’s “Bloodsport” while airborne.

Florida Man attempts to sell meat in a high-end electronics store.

Florida Man appears on “WWE Raw, “ and rains the audience with $100 bills.

Florida Man builds inappropriate comments about the attractiveness of his daughter.

Florida Man runs for chairman, refuses to take off his baseball hat, boasts about his penis and encourages violence and defends punching protesters.

An aerial view of Mar-a-Lago, the sprawling estate of Donald Trump, in Palm Beach, Florida. TheTrump National Doral Miamiattracts star golfers like Northern Ireland’s RoryMcIlroy to events like theWorld Golf Championship Cadillac Championship.

Women’s rights are on the retreat yet again. Why? | Barbara Ellen

5 days ago

Donald Trumps ruling attaining it easier for companies to opt out of providing free family planning highlightings the need for vigilance

When modern females are ultimately fitted with their regulation compulsory chastity belts, dare one dream that they’ll come in a range of fairly colours, delightful the documentation and snazzy designs? Or would it simply be the old-school medieval iron trad models? Hey, little ladies, do you think we’d be allowed to choose?

I muse facetiously because, in the US, President Trump has issued a ruling that makes it far easier for companies and insurers to opt out of free birth control to employees on the grounds of religious and moral beliefs, rolling back a key feature of Obamacare. Now that it will become easier to opt out, many more will do so, with the health risks to affect 55 million females. The American Civil Liberties Union( ACLU) and the National Women’s Law Center have announced that they will sue the government over the decision.

Obamacare provisions also encompassed treatment for gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Now, many girls will be worried about being able to afford such therapies. However, these unfortunate girls probably just count as collateral injury. Apart from the huge amount of money that big business will save, the real target there are sexual autonomy, doubtless all sexual independence, but specifically the female kind that a certain mindset have all along wanted to control.

Contraception, though imperfect, was one of the chief liberators of women, taking much of the dread out of sex. Thus, this removal of free family planning could only be about putting the dread back into sexuality. At the least, putting an end to the corporate bankrolling of the more liberal, humanist, proactive and protective approaches to sex.

It should come as no surprise that among the reasons cited for the change were findings that access to contraception incited” risky sex behaviour “. Eh? One would have thought that reduced access to contraception was far riskier and that, for both sexualities, access to barrier contraception would be the least “risky” of all?

However, even believing like this is to participate in the delusion that this is about people enjoying themselves safely. Take away the figleaf of social responsibility and this becomes about stopping people being able to enjoy sexuality when they want, with whom they want, without anxiety of the results of unwanted pregnancy. And when I say ” people”, I mainly mean women.

Not that things are so peachy for reproductive rights back in Europe. Even as an Irish abortion reform referendum is under discussion for next year, a poll has revealed that only 24% of Irish people are in favour of legalising terminations in nearly all cases. Meanwhile, Prof Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, has argued that parts of the 1967 Abortion Act are outdated and that females need faster, safer access to abortion, without the necessity of achieving the approval of two separate physicians- thus far to no avail. The lesson seems to be that it will never be over- there will always be laws that need to be updated and, where needed, protected. Where the Trump contraceptive ruling is concerned, it’s scary enough that it’s such a backward step- yet scarier that it has been so slyly done.

It’s an example of how a quite subtle shifting of legislative emphasis- simply making something easy( the opt-out) that had previously been difficult- could be enough to undermine, or even destroy, major sociopolitical progress, with far-reaching repercussions for women. The imminence of chastity belts or not, this appears to be an era when there’s a real need for women to stay alert- when hard-fought gains could be eroded in an instant with the quiet swish of a departmental pen.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

When Nigel Farage met Julian Assange

14 days ago

Why did Ukips ex-leader want to slip in unnoticed to satisfy the WikiLeaks chief at the Ecuadorian embassy?

On 9 March 2017, an ordinary Thursday morning, Ian Stubbings, a 35 -year-old Londoner, was walking down the street near its term of office in South Kensington when he spotted a familiar face. He turned and saw a human entering the redbrick terrace which houses the Ecuadorian embassy, where the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up since 2012. And the familiar face? It was Nigel Farage, the person who is spearheaded Britains exit from the European Union.

I thought hang in a moment, Stubbings says. That appears a little bit dodgy. I knew the building was the embassy because I often ensure camera crews outside. But there was no one else around. I was the only person whod seen him. And I didnt know what the significance was and I still dont actually but I thought: thats got to be worth telling and I was the only person whod witnessed it.

So, at 11.22 am, he tweeted it. His handle is @custardgannet and he wrote: Genuine scoop: merely saw Nigel Farage enter the Ecuadorian embassy. Moments later, a reporter from BuzzFeed, who happened to follow him on Twitter, picked it up and tweeted him back, and Stubbings told her: No press or cameras around.

No press or cameras around, that is, until BuzzFeed turned up just in time to catch Farage leaving, 40 minutes later. Nigel Farage Just Visited the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the headline said. Asked by BuzzFeed News if hed been visiting Julian Assange, the former Ukip leader said he could not remember what he had been doing in the building.

And that was how the world found out, by collision, that the founder of WikiLeaks, the organisation which published Hillary Clintons leaked emails a decisive advantage for Donald Trumps campaign and Farage, a friend of Donald Trump, were mutually acquainted.

In Britain, we routinely treat Farage as if he were Widow Twankey in “the member states national” pantomime that is Ukip politics. And Widow Twankey dropping by on the man who lives in the Ecuadorian embassy broom cupboard seemed just one more weird moment in the weird times in which we now live; six weeks on, it had faded into yet another episode in the surreality show that now passes for normality.

But in a week that find two major developments on either side of the Atlantic regarding the respective roles that Assange and Farage played in the US election and the EU referendum the same week in which a UK general election was announced it is an attitude that needs urgent re-examination.

For if you were to pick three the persons who have the most decisive impact on that most decisive of years, 2016, it would be hard to see beyond Trump, Assange and Farage. What was not known until Ian Stubbings decided to go for an early lunch is that there is a channel of communication between them.

Last week brought this more clearly into focus. Because in a shock developing last Thursday, the US justice department announced it had prepared charges with a view to arresting Assange. A day subsequently, the Electoral Commission announced it was investigating Leave.EU the Brexit campaign Farage headed.

Significantly, the commission said its investigation was focused on whether one or more gifts including of services accepted by Leave.EU was impermissible.

One of the grounds on which a gift can be deemed impermissible is that it comes from abroad. A fundamental principle of British democracy and our elections law is that foreign citizens and foreign companies cannot buy influence in British elections via campaign donations.

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The Ecuadorian embassy in west London. Photo: Will Oliver/ EPA

Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge fund proprietor, bankrolled the Trump campaign and his company, Cambridge Analytica, the Observer has disclosed , donated services to Leave.EU. If this issue forms part of the Electoral Commission investigation, this isnt simply a lawsuit of maybe breaking regulations by overspending a few pounds. It goes to the heart of the integrity of our democratic system. Did Leave.EU seek to obtain foreign support for a British election? And, if so, does this constitute foreign subversion?

What did or didnt happen on 9 March may perhaps expose clues to understanding this. To unravelling the links between WikiLeaks, the UK and the Trump administration an administration embroiled in ever deeper connections to the Russian state. Between Trump whose campaign was financed by Mercer and who came to power with the help of the same analytics firm now under investigation for its work with Leave.EU and Brexit.

And 9 March was the working day that all these worlds came together when the cyber-libertarian movement that Assange represents collided headfirst with the global rightwing libertarian movement that Farage represents. When Nigel Farage tripped down the steps of the Ecuadorian embassy a visit that he did not expect to be photographed or documented a beam of light was shone on a previously concealed world: a political alignment between WikiLeaks ideology, Ukips ideology and Trumps ideology that is not inevitably simply an affinity. It is also, potentially, a channel of communication.

David Golumbia, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US who has studied WikiLeaks, describes it as the moment when the lines abruptly become visible. He says: It was like the picture suddenly came into focus. There is this worldwide, rightwing, nationalistic movement that is counter to the EU, and this is present in the US and Europe and Russia, and we are just starting to understand how they do all seem to be in communication and co-ordination with each other.

In many styles, it wasnt a astonish. There are clear ideological similarities between Assange and Farage. They have both been regulars on RT, Russias state-sponsored news channel. They have both been paid indirectly by the Russian state to appear on it. Ben Nimmo, a defense analyst with the Atlantic Councils Digital Forensic Research Lab, points out that Farage has voted systematically in favour of Russian interests in the European parliament. There is very, very strong support for the Kremlin among the far right in Europe. And Farage is squarely in that bloc with the likes of the Front National in France and Jobbik in Hungary.

In February, when I started my investigation into Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica, I fulfilled Andy Wigmore, its director of communications, for a coffee and he told him that Farage was in the US, where he was going to be making a big platform speech at CPAC, the US conservative conference. And its not going to be his normal Mr Brexit speech, he told. Hes going to be talking about the need for closer relations with Russia. Really? I told. That sounds odd.

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Julian Assange making a speech from the balcony of the embassy last year. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/ Reuters

What? No route. Farage has been across the subject for years in the European parliament. It didnt make much sense at the time and, in fact, that wasnt the speech that Farage built. On 24 February, he told the crowd: Our real friends in the world speak English. The next evening he had dinner with Trump at the Washington Trump hotel and tweeted a photo of him with the Donald in the early hours of the morning.

Eleven days later, he headed off to the Ecuadorian embassy. BuzzFeeds story dropped at 1.31 pm. And, 57 minutes later, at 2.28 pm, WikiLeaks made an announcement: it would host a live press conference by Julian Assange about his latest leak, Vault 7.

The timing of this was lost in the isnt that bizarre? tone of the coverage. And, perhaps, also, its only with distance that it raises significant questions not least because the complex web of connections between the Trump administration is a challenge for even hardened US newshounds to follow.

Nearly every day of 2017 brought along forth some new nugget of fact about Trump-Russia but this was a tough week for Trump, even by his standards. The witch-hunt, as hes worded it, was collecting pace. On 2 March, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation and, on 4 March, Trump retaliated in a tweetstorm which accused Obama of wiretapping him.

And then, on 7 March, he finally caught a transgres. Some other news came along to knock him off the front page. For more than a month, WikiLeaks had been periodically issuing cryptic tweets about Vault 7. A month passed before it eventually landed: a leak that, whether by accident or design, embarrassed the CIA.

WikiLeaks data trove had come from what it “ve called the” CIAs global hacking force, its Center for Cyber Intelligence. CIA scrambles to contain injury from WikiLeaks documents, said the headline in what Trump calls the failing New York Times . The documents apparently showed that the CIA had the capability to hack a huge number of devices , not only telephones but also TVs. In the midst of the most serious investigation of foreign cyber-interference in a current administration in US history, vivid revelations about the USs similar capability to interfere abroad had hit the headlines.

US us attorney general Jeff Sessions on WikiLeaks: Well seek to set people in jail

A highly placed linked with links to US intelligence told the Observer : When the heat is turned up and all electronic communication, you have to assume, is being intensely monitored, then those are the times when intelligence communication falls back on human couriers. Where you have individuals passing datum in ways and places that cannot be monitored.

When asked about the session in the embassy, Farage said: I never discuss where I go or who I see.

In October, Roger Stone, a Republican strategist whose links to Russia are currently under investigation by the FBI, told a local CBS reporter about a back-channel communications with Assange, because we have a good reciprocal friend that friend travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk. Asked directly by the Observer if Nigel Farage was that friend, his spokesman said: Definitely not.

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Arron Banks with Nigel Farage in 2014. Photograph: Matt Cardy/ Getty Images

And in some way, this may not be the phase. A channel exists. In the perfect blizzard of fake news, disinformation and social media in which we now live, WikiLeaks is, in many ways, the swirling vortex at the centre of everything. Farages relationship with the organisation is just one of a whole host of questions to which we currently have no answer.

Some of those questions dog Arron Banks, the Bristol businessman who bankrolled Leave.EU and who announced last week that he is standing during the elections in Clacton. When I interviewed him last month, he said: Not a single penny of Russian money has been put into Brexit though that wasnt a question I had asked him.

He is, however, openly pro-Putin and anti-democracy. Its not possible to run that entire country[ Russia] as a pure republic, he told. When asked about the investigation into Leave.EUs campaign finances, he told me: I dont dedicate a monkey about the Electoral Commission.

On Friday night, he released a letter saying that he would no longer co-operate with the commission a body mandated by parliament to uphold UK electoral law and said he would watch them in court.

As Britain lunges towards a general election to choose a government that they are able to take us out of the European union, this may be the moment be recognised that Nigel Farage is not Widow Twankey, and that this is not a pantomime. Farages politics and his relationships are more complicated than we, the British press, have previously realised. His relationship to Mercer and Cambridge Analytica, the same firm that helped Trump to power, is now under official investigation. Every day, more and more questions are being asked about that administration.

Yet, here in Britain, we plunge blindly on. Real, hard topics need to asked about what exactly these relationships are and what they mean. Dont they?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

How Mark Zuckerberg could stop Donald Trump

17 days ago

You may not have noticed, butMark Zuckerbergthis week hurled some serious tint at Donald Trump. What’s even less obvious is why this matters for democracy as we know it.

TheFacebookfounder didn’t mention the2016Republican presidential front-runner by name during his keynote address at the annual F8conference on Tuesday, but there was no doubt that Zuckerberg wasusing his platform to hammer Trump’s rhetoric on policies ranging from immigration to foreign trade.

As I look around the world, Im starting to see people and nations turning inward, against the idea of a connected world and a global community, Zuckerberg said. I hear fearful voices calling for build walls and distancing people they label as others. I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases even for cutting access to the Internet.

Zuckerberg delivered his veiled public criticism of Trump merely weeks after, asGizmodo reported Friday, Facebook employees asked Zuckerberg, What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?

Were Zuckerberg to decide that the social media giant has that responsibility, it raises a key question for the American people: Could Facebook actually prevent Trump from winning the White House?

The answer is almost certainly yesand there may be no way to stop it.

Zuckerberg vs. Trump

Trump and Zuckerberg have been butting heads from a distance since the real-estate heir launched his presidential campaign on an anti-immigrant platform last summer.

I hear fearful voices calling for house walls and distancing people they label as others .

Trump’s it is proposed to take an extremely hard line on China could trigger a trade war, which would undoubtedly hamper Facebook’sefforts to get the Chinese government to allow its citizens to use the social networking platform. In addition to Trump’s hostility to undocumented immigration, which has find him calling for the construction of awall on the U.S.-Mexico perimeter and praising a widely mocked mass expulsion endeavour from the 1950 s calledOperation Wetback, Trump has also been publicly hostile to certain forms of legal immigration that Zuckerberg wants to expand.

Both personally and through his nonprofit immigration reform group, Fwd.us, Zuckerberg has been a major proponent of the H1-B visa program, which lets U.S. companies to temporarily devote residency to highly skilled foreign workers who can fill specific needs for a business. The use of H1-B visas is popular among Silicon Valley tech firms looking for skilled workers at a moment when the market for certain types of engineering talent has truly become global, and maybe also catching a violate on labor costs.

Trump, however, charged that the program disadvantages American workers at the expense of their foreign competitors, and he proposed changing the program to make it more difficult for companies to bring in employees from overseas. In apolicy paper posted to Trump’s website last year, the candidate made a excavate directly at Zuckerberg, charging, Mark Zuckerbergs personal senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.

In response to Zuckerberg’s F8 comments, a Trump campaign spokesperson equated undocumented immigration to crime, telling CNBC, I’ll take Mark Zuckerberg severely when he devotes up all of his private securitymove out of his posh neighborhood and come live in a modest neighborhood near a border town. Then I’m sure his attitude would change.

While social media platforms like Facebook have beeninstrumental to Trump’s political success, there’s clearly no love lost between the candidate and the social networking wunderkind. Zuckerberg clearly assures a Trump presidency as dangerous for the future of the country. If Zuckerberg wanted to throw his full weight behind the #NeverTrump movement, he has a tool far more powerful in influencing the outcome of the election than his billions of dollars.

Zuckerberg has Facebook.

Tipping the scale

If Trump emerges from what’s shaping up to be anunprecedentedly chaotic Republican convention with the nomination, he’s already going to be facing a stiff headwindveteran political analyst Larry Sabato seesHillary Clinton crushing Trump by a margin of 156 electoral elections. But elections are unpredictable. If that gap closes, powerful platforms like Facebook have the ability to move the dial in the number of important ways.

Before get into the specifics, it’s crucial to point out that there’s no indication that Facebook has ever purposely targeted a candidate , nor do they have any stated intention to do so. Facebook’s power is largely in the network consequence gained from its ubiquity, how it’s used by a broad cross-section of the public. If people supposed the social network went out of its style to alter the course of an election, it would enrage the supporters of the candidate it moved against and likely incentivize them to use website less frequently or even abandon it wholly.

Voting is a core value of republic and we believe that promoting civic participation is an important contribution we are capable of make to the community. Were proud of our work on this, a Facebook spokesperson told the Daily Dot. While we encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to engage on the elections, we as a company are neutral and have not utilized our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.

As a platform, Facebook has an enormous ability to influence public perception in a manner that is subtle enough that it may be impossible to detect. Regardless of whether or not Facebook would actively discriminate against Trump or any other candidateand there’s a strong incentive for the company not to do soit’s abundantly clear that it could .

Facebook first systematically looked at its ability to influence voting behaviour on Election Day in 2010. As detailed in astudy published two years later, researchers at Facebook demonstrated some users a button at the top of their news feeds allowing them to tell their friends that I Voted and encouraging them to do their democratic duty if they hadn’t yet done so, while other users weren’t indicated the same message. The researchers compared the data to the actual voter rolls and detected the feature had a significant effect in boosting turnoutnot just for people who were indicated the button; there was a ripple effect among their friends as well.

Our results suggest that the Facebook social message increased turnout directly by about 60,000 voters and indirectly through social contagion by another 280,000 voters, for a total of 340,000 additional votes, the researchers wrote.

When compared to the 2010 electorate a whole, this number is not particularly large It represents about 0.14 percent of the 236 million Americas eligible to vote in that year’s midterm election. Still, presidential elections have been decided by slimmer marginsthe 2000 Bush v. Gore contest, for example. Additionally, the I Voted effect was the result of a single item being shown on a single day. How would it affect voting behavior if Facebook consistently altered what appeared in people’s news feeds over hour? Two years later, the company aimed to find out.

While we encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to engage on the elections, we as a company are neutral .

In 2012, Facebook’s researchers wanted to determine if increased exposure to hard news about politics affected users’ inclination to election. They tweaked the news feeds of approximately two million users so that if any of their friends had shared a news story, that tale would be boosted to the top of their feed. These are narratives the targeted users had a probability of find anyway. If one of your Facebook friends likes or shares a piece of content commonly, there’s a chance it will end up in your feed. This experiment all but guaranteed that exposure for a certain type of content.

Facebook then polled those users and received 12,000 replies. The respondents reported an increased likelihood to follow politics and were more likely to report voting in the November election. Interestingly, the effects was more pronounced for infrequent Facebook users than “its all for” people who logged in every day like clockwork.

Facebook data scientist Lada Adamic detailed the 2012 experiment in a public presentation. But when Personal Democracy Media co-founder Micah Sifry contacted Facebook about such studies while doing research for a2014 article he published in Mother Jones , the clip was quickly taken down fromYouTube.

Sifry afterward uploaded a video of that video to YouTube 😛 TAGEND

First of all, Facebook has pretty much routinized the use of its voter megaphone tool and has been deploying it in countries around the world when there’s a democratic election. They’ve actually offered no additional transparency about how the tool works, Sifry told the Daily Dot , nodding to Facebook’s famously opaque algorithm. I consider it to be an ongoing problem that we basically have to trust the engineers at Facebook to use this thumb on the scale in a wholly neutral way.

Engineers, remember, who may very well feel that the company should place that finger.

Sifry remembers back in 2007, when PresidentBarack Obama, then a U.S. senator, was still in early stages of his hunt for the keys to the Oval Office. When Facebook launched Platform, a toolkit that allowed third-parties to develop applications for the site, the Obama team was the first political campaign to gain access. At the time, this moveraised questions about why Obama got early access while other campaigns, like those of Sen.John McCain( R-Ariz .) and or then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, didn’t get the same early access. Should that exclusive access be viewed as an in-kind contribution from Facebook to the Obama campaign? Or was it merely one promising, young, tech-savvy organization offering the opportunity to beta test its product to another promising, young, tech-savvy organization?

The core of the questions is that, 12 years after its birth in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook has come to play a such a crucial role in how people around the world communicate, virtually everything it does threatens to have an effect on politics. Through its ubiquity, Facebook is often viewed as a utility akin the telephone company, rather than just another website adrift on an seemingly endless and indifferent Internet.

What they don’t know, they can’t govern

The power to theoretically choose the outcome of election isn’t limited to Facebook. Similar concerns have been raised about the power ofGoogleto swing results of the election. A 2015 analyze published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that manipulating the order connections appeared in the results page of a search engine could have adramatic impacton undecided voters’ perceptions of political candidates.

This problem naturally invites the question of whether regulation is needed to police how these web giants can affect elections. When contacted by the Daily Dot, representatives from the Federal Elections Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission all indicated this issue wasn’t covered under their specific jurisdictions.

Paul Ryan, deputy executive director at the election watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center, used to say if Facebook or Google were directly coordinating with a candidate to manipulate what their users find for the campaign’s benefit, then it would be considered an in-kind contribution, effectively a donation. However, that regulation only applies if there’s direct coordination.

If Facebook or Google or another Internet business were to manipulate their public interface for the benefit of a candidate, the company would be sailing in uncharted legal waters .

If its doing these things independently of nominees, and they stop short from expressly advocating a candidates election or defeat( e.g ., Google stops short of including a message like ‘Vote for Trump’ at the top of its listing search results for a term like ‘presidential election’ ), Ryan said, then federal campaign finance laws wouldnt apply.

At any rate, Im quite certain that the Federal Election Commission has never to reflect on any formal style( rule-making, advisory opinions, enforcement actions) how federal campaign finance laws would or would not is in relation to such activities, he continued. So if Facebook or Google or another Internet business were to manipulate their public interface for the benefit of a candidate, the company would be sail in uncharted legal waters.

Any attempt to regulate how online platforms affect voter turnout is extremely tricky. Due to the demographics of its user base in the United Stateswhich tends towardthe young, the female, and the urbaneven if Facebook equally boosted turnout across the board, it would advantage Democrats over Republican, because those groups have a tendency lean Democratic rather than Republican. Facebook promoting more people to vote is an unequivocal good, but even when the company applies civic pressure to the public uniformly, there’s likely be a partisan advantage. In that context, it’s impossible to impose regulation without proscribing the social network from making any moves to boost voter turnout.

Facebook publishing the results of its experiments is a rare occurrence, but the firmlike every other Internet company worth its saltis constantly operating experimentations, tweaks in the design of its platform to see how they affect user behavior. The Internet makes this so-called -AB testing relatively easy, and involving companies to check with government regulators before each exam, just to ensure its not boosting one side over the other, is unreasonably onerous.

Of course, enforcing any rules is dependent on determining that this sort of manipulation is even occurring in the first place. Large teams of people working in tandem across the country on Election Day might be able tell if only Democrat assure the I Voted button, but no one outside of Facebook’s administrators would be able to tell if Republican were slightly more likely than Democrats to find the type of hard news tales that would activate them to vote.

So, what if Facebook’s algorithms ascertained the type of news stories that increased civic participation also triggered more sharing, but merely for Democrats and not Republican? In that case, would even Facebook know what effect it was having on republic?

Maybe. But, then again, maybe not.

Read more:

Trump in Moscow: what happened at Miss Universe in 2013

18 days ago

The pageant and the presidents attempts to get close to Putin have become a focus of the investigation into Trumps links to Russian interference in the US election

Sitting in a makeshift studio overlooking the Moscow river on a crisp day in November 2013, Donald Trump pouted, stared down the lens of a television camera and said something he would come to regret.

Asked by an interviewer whether he had a relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the brash New York businessman could not resist boasting.” I do have a relationship with him ,” Trump said.

Russia’s strongman had” done a rather brilliant task “, Trump told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, before declaring that Putin had bested Barack Obama.” He’s done an amazing undertaking- he’s put himself actually at the forefront of the world as a leader in a short period of time .”

Trump, a teetotaler, seemed intoxicated by the buzz surrounding the glitzy event that had brought him back to Moscow: that year’s instalment of the Miss Universe contest that he then owned.

Four years later, he is struggling to shake off the hangover.

The 2013 pageant has become a focal point for the simultaneous investigations, led by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees, into whether associates of Trump colluded with Russian officials to help them win the 2016 US presidential election.

Investigators are examining closely endeavours apparently made by the Russian government to pass Trump’s team damaging information on Hillary Clinton, using Trump’s politically connected Miss Universe business partners as couriers.

They are also looking into the $20 m fee that Trump collected for putting on the pageantry from those same business partners- along with extraordinary allegations about Trump’s private conduct behind closed doors at the Ritz-Carlton hotel during his 2013 stay in Moscow.

The Guardian has learned of additional, previously unreported, the linkages between Trump’s business partners on the pageantry and Russia’s government. The ties are likely to attract further scrutiny by researchers who are already biting at the heels of Trump associates.

A full accounting of Trump’s actions in the Russian capital as that autumn turned to winter may be critical to resolving a controversy that has already devoured the first eight months of his presidency.

” Our committee’s investigation will not be complete unless we fully understand who President Trump met with when he was over in Russia for Miss Universe, and what follow-up contacts resulted ,” Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in an interview.

Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, declined to answer when asked whether the president’s team accepts that the Miss Universe contest is a legitimate area of inquiry for investigators.” Fake news ,” Dowd said in an email.

Emin
Emin Agalarov, Donald Trump and Aras Agalarov attend the Miss Universe pageant on 9 November 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Victor Boyko/ Getty Images

‘Look who’s come to see me !’

It was a whirlwind courtship.

Trump was instantly taken with Aras Agalarov, the billionaire proprietor of the Crocus Group corporation, when the two wealthy real estate developers satisfied for the first time on the fringe of the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas in mid-June 2013.

After only ten minutes of discussion, Trump was showing off his new friend.” He clapped me on the shoulder, dedicated a thumbs up, and started wailing,’ Look who’s come to see me! It’s the richest human in Russia !’,” Agalarov recalled to a Russian magazine later that year, before clarifying that his fortune- estimated at about$ 2bn- was far from Russia’s biggest.

The meeting had been set in motion only a month earlier, when Agalarov’s son Emin, a pop singer who is well-known in eastern Europe, filmed his latest music video in Los Angeles. His co-star was the reigning Miss Universe, a casting selection that brought the Agalarovs into contact with Trump’s beauty pageant division.

The idea of hosting that year’s competition in Russia was created over dinner by Paula Shugart, Trump’s top Miss Universe executive, according to Emin Agalarov. In a little-noticed interview published in July, Emin said Trump’s organisation seemed to be in need of the money that Moscow could offer.” We have a lot of indebtedness ,” he quoted Shugart as telling. Miss Universe denies that Shugart said this.

In any case, a price tag of $20 m to be paid by Agalarov in return for Trump bringing the Miss Universe contest to Russia was speedily agreed upon. Several Democrats have raised concerns that the pay- like the billions in bank loans he secured to bring himself back from the brink in the early 1990 s- may have left Trump indebted to foreign influences.

” The pageantry was financed by a Russian billionaire who is close to Putin ,” Senator Al Franken of Minnesota told a congressional hearing in May.” The Russians have a history of using financial investments to gain leveraging over influential people and then later calling in favours. We know that .”

Just four weeks after Emin’s video shoot, at the backslapping Las Vegas get-together, Trump announced that the bargain was done. Miss Universe would be held at the Agalarov family’s sprawling Crocus City complex on the leading edge of Moscow, described by Trump as” Russia’s most premier venue “.

Emin
Emin Agalarov, Miss Universe 2013 win Gabriela Isler and Donald Trump. Photo: Kommersant Photo/ Kommersant via Getty Images

In a dreary Vegas hotel banqueting dormitory, the beaming new business partners eat a celebratory dinner together. Video footage afterward obtained by CNN indicated Trump at his most oleaginous.” What a beautiful mom you have ,” he told Emin. The principals were joined by an smorgasbord of hangers-on including Emin’s publicist- a portly Briton named Rob Goldstone.

It was Goldstone who would contact Trump’s son Donald Jr during the 2016 presidential campaign with a sensitive message, indicates that there is emails released last month. The” crown prosecutor of Russia”- assumed to be Goldstone’s garbled billing for Yury Chaika, the Russian prosecutor general- wanted the Trump campaign to have some documents that would” incriminate Hillary”, he told. And the Agalarovs would deliver them.

” This is obviously very high level and sensitive info but is an example of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump- helped along by Aras and Emin ,” Goldstone wrote. Rather than carry surprise or topic the apparent Kremlin operation Goldstone was describing, Donald Jr pressed ahead and arranged the session. ” If it’s what you say I love it ,” he replied.

Rob
Rob Goldstone. Photo: Stringer/ Reuters

Aras Agalarov made a suitable sherpa. While not a is part of Putin’s inner circle, Agalarov cultivated friendly relations with the Kremlin while rising to the country’s oligarch class with a profitable network of shopping center. He travelled around in a $44 m Gulfstream private plane.

Less than two weeks before the Miss Universe finals, Putin awarded Agalarov the prestigious Order of Honor medal, after Crocus had completed for him a billion-dollar transformation of a former military base into a new country university.

” I wish to thank you so much for your work and contribution to the development of this country ,” Putin told Agalarov and his fellow honorees. Crocus would go on to be further rewarded with more government construction contracts, including for stadiums that are to be used for next year’s soccer World Cup tournament in Russia.

Ikray
Ikray’ Ike’ Kaveladze. Photograph: Twitter

Quietly, Agalarov and Crocus have also cultivated high-level relationships with Russian authorities on another front. They were established by one of Agalarov’s top lieutenants- Ikray ” Ike ” Kaveladze, a publicity-shy senior Crocus executive and the so-called ” eighth human” at the 2016 Trump Tower session where Donald Jr hoped to receive dirt on Clinton.

While comparatively unknown to the public before news of the meeting emerged in July, Kaveladze has in fact been an associate of some of Russia’s richest and most powerful people for the past three decades.

The Guardian has established that Kaveladze was involved in the $341 m takeover of a US company by a Russian mining firm belonging to an associate of Putin, and was a business partner to two former senior officials at Russia’s central bank.

In 2003, the Colorado-based firm Stillwater Mining was bought by Norilsk Nickel, a metals corporation in Moscow led by Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs, who is so favoured by Putin that he has played on the president’s” Hockey Legends” ice hockey team.

Vladimir
Vladimir Potanin. Photo: Bloomberg/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

As part of its $341 m purchase of the American firm, Norilsk nominated Kaveladze to be one of five specific handpicked directors on Stillwater’s new committee, according to a filing by the company to the US Securities and Exchange Commission( SEC ). Kaveladze was billed as the president of” an international consulting boutique” serving a” US and Eastern European clientele “.

The deal was the first time a Russian company had ever taken a majority stake in a publicly quoted US company. It was viewed as critical by the Kremlin. Putin was reported at the time to have personally advocated for the deal’s approving by US regulators during a meeting with then president George W Bush earlier in 2003.

Norilsk was then co-owned by Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov, another major Russian oligarch, who later sold his stake. Prokhorov, who has had mixed relations with the Kremlin , now owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in New York. Kaveladze and Prokhorov had been classmates at the Moscow Finance Institute in the late 1980 s and formed partnership agreements selling customised jeans between their studies.

Kaveladze’s ascent to the Stillwater board was eventually derailed, according to information sources, after the discovery of his earlier participation in a $1.4 bn California-based scheme involving shell companies and transfers from Russia, which US authorities told may have been used for money laundering. Norilsk said he withdrew from the process for personal reasons.

The Guardian previously revealed that Kaveladze’s partner in that operation was Boris Goldstein, a Soviet-born banker whose ties to former KGB officers attracted interest from US examiners after he moved to California in the early 1990 s. In a remarkable coincidence, the US attorney in San Francisco whose office eventually declined to bring criminal charges over their alleged money-laundering scheme was Robert Mueller, the special advise now looking into Kaveladze’s reappearance.

Also previously unreported is Kaveladze’s close friendship with Andrei Kozlov, who was first deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank under Putin for four years before being assassinated in 2006 as he attempted to clean up Russia’s corrupt banking system. Accusations about who bore persons responsible for his murder have swirled ever since.

Andrei
Andrei Kozlov. Photograph: Alexei Sazonov/ AP

At the turn of the 1990 s, Kaveladze and Kozlov had gone into business together after graduating from the Moscow Finance Institute. They founded a small publisher and translator of financial volumes with Dmitry Budakov, another classmate, who also went on to be a senior executive at Russia’s central bank before running a division of the state-owned Bank of Moscow.

The young entrepreneurs capitalised on a hunger for fiscal literature among players in Russia’s rapidly privatising economy, pricing their textbooks at around $250. One book was published in Kaveladze’s name. His 1993 work, Protecting trade secret in the US: A guide to protecting your business info, remains available in several university libraries.

According to an official history of that time, their volume publishing outfit, ECO-Consulting, was established as a division of Crocus International, Aras Agalarov’s then-burgeoning business empire. In return for the security of being part of a larger corporation, Kaveladze and his business partners advised Agalarov on economic and financial affairs, according to a memoir of the time by Budakov.” Cooperation was mutually profitable ,” he wrote.

Kaveladze soon moved to the US, landing first in Pennsylvania. He had earlier spent almost a month visiting the Gettysburg area after graduating in 1989. As a tribute to their departed guest, locals held a “Perestroika” 5,000 -metre running race near the site of the civil war battlefield as part of their Labor Day celebrations, according to the Gettysburg Times.

When Kaveladze moved to the US, he was adopted by a middle-aged couple in York, Pennsylvania, and later moved to New York. His adoptive mother died in February 1993; her widower did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 25 years after their first venture, Kaveladze continues to work alongside Agalarov at Crocus. Their company has become one of the biggest corporations in Russia, carrying out government build contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Putin’s administration- and sealing international are dealing here with tycoons such as Trump.

Contestants
Contestants pose at the Miss Universe pageant on 9 November 2013 in Moscow. Photo: Victor Boyko/ Getty Images

‘Will he become my new best friend ?’

Before leaving the US for his big Russian show in 2013, Trump made an unusual public appeal.

” Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow ,” he asked on Twitter, and” if so, will he become my new best friend ?” A source in Moscow told the Guardian that a meeting with Trump was indeed pencilled into Putin’s diary by aides, but fell off his schedule a few days beforehand.

Agalarov later told that Putin sent his apologies to Trump in the form of a handwritten note and a gift of a traditional decorative lacquered box. It is not known whether Trump met any associates of Putin in lieu of the president himself, but he certainly claimed to have.

” I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people ,” he said in a radio interview in 2015.” I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I satisfied the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary .”

Having flown from the US overnight, Trump arrived in Moscow on 8 November and checked in to the Ritz Carlton hotel. It was a choice that had now been become notorious. An opponent research dossier compiled for a private client by a former British spy, which subsequently published by BuzzFeed News, alleged that the Kremlin held compromising and lurid footage of Trump and a pair of prostitutes during his stay at the hotel.

Elsewhere in the dossier, author Christopher Steele wrote that two sources alleged Trump also had illicit sex encounters in the Russian city of St Petersburg during a separate visits to the country. The sources, according to Steele, said that Aras Agalarov would “know the details”. Trump denies any wrongdoing.

It is plausible- but unproven- that endeavors were made to surveil Trump during his trip.

” If “youre using” their field of interest then the FSB will perfectly attempt to to be implemented by surveillance ,” said a Russian hotel industry source, who did not want the name of his hotel mentioned due to the sensitivity of the topic.

The source said there was little that hotel managers could do about FSB demands, and that they are sometimes forced to provide access to rooms for agents.” In “the worlds biggest” hotels you also definitely have a number of people on the staff who work on the side for the FSB, so they would have had absolutely no problem get into the room if necessary .”

Putin stated earlier this year that it was absurd to think the FSB would have bugged or secretly filmed Trump’s room in 2013, as he was not even a legislator at that point. Russia did not simply bug every American billionaire who visited the country, according to the president.

But the hotel industry source cast doubt on that assert.” Surveillance doesn’t happen that often, but I’m pretty sure Trump would have been of a sufficient level to warrant it ,” said the source.” I’ve seen people of lower levels than him watched for sure .”

When the late-night talkshow host Stephen Colbert managed in July to gain access to the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite, where Trump is said to have stayed, an unexplained power cable was detected dangling from a section of the bedroom wall that was hidden behind a non-illuminated mirror.

Whatever the truth about how closely Trump was being monitored by the Kremlin, a statement he made about Putin during that boast-filled interview with MSNBC seems especially curious with the benefit of hindsight.

” I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today ,” Trump told of the Russian president.” He’s probably very interested in what you and I are telling today- and I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some sort .”

Some elements of Steele’s dossier was allegedly been confirmed by researchers, but other details have been shown to be false. And Trump has been backed up on the claims about his private conduct by Emin Agalarov.” While the world tries to figure out what Donald Trump was doing in a hotel in Moscow during Miss Universe- I actually know because he was filming my music video ,” he wrote on Instagram.

Early in the morning of 9 November, Trump was taking part in filming at the hotel for the video of Emin’s single In Another Life. The video features Emin dreaming about being surrounded by bikini-clad Miss Universe contestants, before waking up to be lectured by Trump and told: “You’re fired.”

Yulya Alferova, a businesswoman and blogger who was hired by Crocus Group to help with their social media presence at that time, arrived at the hotel that morning and met Trump shortly after the filming had finished. After a brief dialogue, Trump took a shine to her, and Emin invited her to join a small group for lunch.

” We talked about Twitter, and I asked him if he agreed that Twitter is the strongest and sometimes the most hazardous social media. He asked me about real estate, because I told him it’s one of my professional interests ,” told Alferova, who once attained notoriety in Russia for posting a photograph of her cat eating black caviar.

Alferova Yulya (@ AlferovaYulyaE)

My super popular cat 🙂 @nypost loves us 🙂 http :// t.co/ tUE2 8eGvNp #Russia #cat #caviar pic.twitter.com/ p0xFTeioAo

March 24, 2015

Later, Trump told her that she should contact him if she was ever in New York. He had his assistant hand her a business card. But there was nothing inappropriate about his conduct, Alferova said, describing Trump as a “gentleman” who always acted” correctly and properly” in their interactions.

The pageant went off without a hitch. Gabriela Isler of Venezuela was crowned the winner. An after-party was held for the contestants and friends of the organisers. There were three private boxes: one for the Agalarovs, one for Trump and one for Roustam Tariko, the head of Russian Standard, the Russian vodka company and bank, which sponsored Miss Russia. The American band Panic! At The Disco provided the music, and contestants mingled with guests. Several were invited into the boxes to speak with Trump and the oligarchs. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who had performed at the ceremony, was also there.

” Trump was still there when I left at 2am ,” a guest at the party told the Guardian.” There were a lot of people there, it was fun but fairly civilised .” Alferova, the businesswoman and blogger, recollected multiple guests approaching Trump and asking for photograph with him.

” There were no government people present and no major Forbes List people except Aras[ Agalarov] and Roustam[ Tariko ]” said one of the organisers of the event, indicating Trump’s boastful claims that” all the oligarchs” attended may have been false.

Still, during his Moscow stay Trump also attended a private meeting with resulting Russian industrialists at Nobu, the high-end Japanese restaurant chain for which Agalarov owns the Moscow franchise. The dinner was arranged by Herman Gref, Putin’s former energy minister and now chief executive of the state-owned Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank. The bank, which was another sponsor of Miss Universe, was later among the Russian companies sanctioned by the US over Russia’s annexing part of Ukraine in 2014.

” He’s a sensible person, very lively in his responses, with a positive energy and a good attitude toward Russia ,” Gref told Bloomberg.

Agalarov has said he and Trump also met with the businessmen Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen- Trump’s old partners on the controversial Trump Soho project in New York- to discuss opportunities in Moscow. Agalarov later said they struck an arrangement in principle to go ahead. Trump seemed to think so:” TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next ,” he said in a thank you note to Agalarov on Twitter. Eight days later, Sberbank announced it was giving Agalarov 55 bn roubles ($ 1.3 bn) to finance new projects in Moscow.

Trump Tower Moscow, like so many other Russian twinkles in Trump’s eye over the past three decades, did not materialise. But it recently emerged that the conversations continued behind the scenes even after he began his long-threatened campaign for chairperson.

In October 2015, four months into his campaign, Trump signed a” letter of intent” to build a tower in Moscow. Pulling the strings on the abortive bargain was Felix Sater, yet another Russian business associate of Trump, who once served time in prison for stabbing a human in the face with a broken cocktail glass.

” I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected ,” Sater reportedly told Trump’s attorney in an email.” Buddy our boy is able to President of the USA and we are capable of engineer it … I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this .”

The future of Trump’s presidency may rest on what else was said and done relating to the project- and whether researchers who already reek blood can prove it.

On at least three occasions following the Miss Universe trip, Trump had publicly claimed to have met Putin. But when asked by reporters at a campaign stop in Florida in July 2016 to clarify the situation of women his relationship with the Russian president, as concerns over Russian election interference mounted, Trump gave a rather different version.

” I never met Putin ,” said Trump.” I don’t know who Putin is .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Do alpha males even exist? | Dean Burnett

25 days ago

Dean Burnett: Donald Trump has repeatedly been described as an alpha male, but theres no scientific proof that such a thing even exists in humans

We all know what an alpha male is. An alpha male is a man who takes charge, one who imposes his will on others , not the other way round. Other humen want to be him, girls want to be with him. An alpha male intimidates, hes unquestionably in charge , no matter what the situation. An alpha male is loud, brash, doesnt care what anybody else supposes. An alpha male says what he wants, does what he wants, wears what he wants, as long as those clothes are roomy enough in the trousers to accommodate his gargantuan gonads and dont dissolve in response to all the testosterone constantly leaking from his pores.

Thats members of the general notion, anyway. But the idea that human men can be alpha males is actually far from scientifically accepted. This may come as a surprise, dedicated how common and widespread the notion is. The latest example would be Donald Trump in his presidential debates. People have labelled him an alpha male, Nigel Farage even defended Trumps obscene commentaries about girls as alpha male boasting and compared him to a silverback gorilla, which for those very well known primate anatomy is actually quite an insult. So what, scientifically, is the case for alpha males among humans? As ever, its somewhat complicated.

Programme
Alpha males are supposed to be good with the dames. Photograph: Ron Cohn/ BBC

The origin of the human alpha male

New York Magazine has a very informative and detailed article about this, but the take-home message is that before the 1960 s there were scarcely any examples of humans being described as alpha males, the word was restricted to fields like primatology research. Species like chimps and gorillas do have social structure and hierarchies with a dominant individual at the top, typically a male who has achieved that positon via showings of strength and physical prowess. The fact that alpha males exist isnt disputed, its whether humen can actually be such a thing.

The term started being applied to humans with the publication of Frans de Waals Chimpanzee Politics, which constructed direct comparings between human and chimp behaviour, including the dominant the behavior of males. It became more mainstream when used in the context of Al Gores presidential campaign.

It truly became accepted as something humen should want to be with the success of Neil Strausss The Game, based on lessons he acquired from the Pick Up Artist community. This should trigger alarm bells for many; terms and methods acquired from Pick Up Artist should be treated with extreme scepticism at the very least. But, sex being the powerful motivator that it is, the idea that being an alpha male aimed at improving your life and attain you more successful with women demonstrated unbelievably beguiling, so acceptance and use of the term has now become the norm. But this doesnt mean its valid, just that its common.

Mature
Alpha males expect to get their own route at all times, and often do. Why that happens is another matter. Photo: Alvarez/ Getty Images

The case for the human alpha male

One reason that, despite a lack of concrete evidence, the idea of the human alpha male is so persuasive is that is makes a great deal of intuitive sense. The big, loud, brash guys who swagger and dominate and bully have been part of national societies for as long as its existed, so its nice to have a convenient label for them if nothing else.

Its hard to deny that humans are very susceptible to the process of social dominance; we exist in unequal hierarchies with inferior and superior individuals in almost every context, so its not far-fetched to assume that some humen rise to the top of these hierarchies due to a combination of physical and psychological qualities( such as height, a deep voice, and so on ).

Humans are, for better or worse, very easily influenced by displays of confidence, after all. And by acting confident, men could well find they get their route more often, and thus be compelled to continue. A self-fulfilling prophecy that indicates fake it til you make it is a valid approach to becoming an alpha male, and therefore propagate the idea. After all, girls love a bad boy( perhaps )~ ATAGEND.

Overall, human behaviour has many aspects that, taken together, suggest that alpha males are a real thing.

Contestants
Displays of strength and prowess are common in the wild. They rarely involve oil and posing pouches, though … Photograph: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/ AFP/ Getty Images

The lawsuit against the human alpha male

The conclusion in the previous section highlights the major problem with the arguments for human alpha males; it focuses on supporting evidence, and dismiss that which contradicts it. Because while human do share a number of features and behaviours with our primate cousins, we are invariably far more complex.

People can belong to different hierarchies, for example; a guy who is the most vocal, dominant person in his amateur football squad might be under the heel of an aggressive boss during his day chore. Is he an alpha male, or not? It depends on context, obviously. Humen have many different social groups and varying roles within them, because were more complex. A universal alpha seems unlikely.

Rather than relying on aggressive dominance, humans are actually far more cooperative and social. Some evidence suggests that our friendliness and sociability is what built us so smart embarking upon, so rather than being the top humen, you could argue that alpha males are something of an evolutionary throwback, the civilizational equivalent of an appendix; no longer employed, simply hangs around and occasionally fills everything with poison.

Supposed human alpha male behaviour also often doesnt match alpha male behaviour in other species. Many non-human alpha males also have a corresponding alpha female who exerts similar high levels of predominance and control, whereas human alpha males invariably have a less respectful attitude towards women, shall we say. Also, the fact that many communities of men( particularly online) are apparently remain convinced that they can all be alpha males is a contradiction in terms; there should only be one alpha male per community, thats sort of the whole phase. The remainder should try and depose him as and when the opportunity presents itself, but until then the objective is, at best, beta males, a word often used as an insult by members of said community with no sense of irony.

Its as if the idea of being an alpha male is very reassuring to those who lack confidence and are frightened by the wider world and people in it, so want to turn the tables.

This may be key. Supposed alpha males may always get their route not because of to some evolved tendency in humen to respect and obey men who showing a specific situated of characteristics, as if people were video games that respond to certain defraud codes, but simply because theyre scary. If a large, shouty man starts bellowing in your face, thats very unsettling, so people may do what he says to stop him from becoming violent, or simply to stimulate him go away. Said man would patently perceive this as evidence for his own superiority.

Maybe the supposed human alpha male is a combination of disgruntled male wish fulfilment and borderline-pseudoscientific justification for resorting to bully, intimidation and generally all-round unpleasant behaviour by humen hoping to impose their will on a world they find too complex and unnerving so revert to their baser instincts to get what they want, despite knowing deep down they dont deserve it and shouldnt have it?

In fairness, alpha male is a lot more succinct.

Dean Burnetts debut volume The Idiot Brain is available now in the UK , USA and Canada .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

WHAP! Ben Rhodes’ hypocrisy jab at ‘Tea Party patriots’ lands HARD on Team Obama instead

25 days ago

The GOP tax bill has Democrats trying to whip up a panic while apparently hoping nobody remembers the eight years before Donald Trump took office:

Read more:

Neoliberalism: the deep narrative that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph | George Monbiot

1 month, 1 day ago

How a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues killed choice and destroyed people faith in politics

The events that led to Donald Trumps election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the narrative runs, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. This is what we believe, she told. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publishing, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It considered competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of wins and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant taxation, regulation, trade union activities activity or country provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would percolate down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly shall be financed by multimillionaires who find the doctrine as an instrument of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal program advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible notion of liberty: a lack of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, is not an ultimate or absolute value. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exerting choice over the direction that politics and communities might take.

He justifies its own position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, expending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific innovators. Only as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are scouts, experimenting with new styles of living, who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The advance of society depends on the liberty of these independents to gain as much fund as they want and expend it how there is a desire to. All that is good and useful, hence, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward , no distinction constructed between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: the idle rich, who dont have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and notions. Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but aimless showing, they are in fact acting as societies vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and tries by the country to create the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is an overwhelming suit against a free health service for all and rejected the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics.

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayeks doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the worlds richest people and industries, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant impact, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayeks anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

The
The ideologies Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan espoused were just two facets of neoliberalism. Photo: Bettmann/ Bettmann Archive

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive taxation cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his followers. But the real victory of this network was not its capture for the human rights, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political narrative, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other terms, they extracted a few cases elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their adversaries believed, and developed from this unlikely combining a third way.

It was inevitable that the blaze, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pulling than the dying superstar of social democracy. Hayeks triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blairs expansion of the private finance initiative to Clintons repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had governed the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didnt possess a narrative either( except hope ), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

Read more: www.theguardian.com